MigrantVoicesHeard Project Conference

Brussels, October 6, 2023

Migrant Voices Heard Final Conference

Migrant Voices Heard Final Conference: Ildiko Otova

Migrant Voices Heard Final Conference: Andrea Leru



Opening Speech

Iliyana Nikolova,
Executive Director of the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation and Project Director of MVH Project

Iliyana Nikolova, Bulgaria, holds an MA degree in History. Her professional career since 1997 relates to the civil society sector. She has worked for different organizations whose mission could be defined as efforts in building democracy, and promotion of human rights and social justice. She has been appointed as EU Ambassador of the European Pillar of Social Rights and European Citizens Initiative with the last 2 EU Commissions. Since 2001 she has been Executive Director of the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation (WCIF), one of the biggest indigenous organizations in Bulgaria. WCIF develops nascent civil society organizations, which contribute to the social development process and the creation of a meaningful dialogue at all levels of public life. WCIF provides resources for development (e.g. grants, know-how, access to new technologies (software), instruments for skills development, knowledge and expertise sharing, and peer learning). WCIF not only funds, but also initiates, proactively seeks, and backs ideas that foster and advocate social development as a democratic value involving public and private sector, people, and civil society organizations in joint actions for democratic causes.

Keynote Speakers

Ildiko Otova

Holding a Ph.D. in Political science and a laureate of the Mozer Scholarship for excellence in Political science studies and civil courage, Ildiko Otova currently serves as an assistant professor and academic program consultant at the Department of Political Science in her Alma Mater, New Bulgarian University. Her research interests include migration and refugee issues, integration, populism, far-right and extremism. Her last book is Migration and Populism in Bulgaria. Routledge, 2021 (co-author). Ildiko Otova has proven experience in the non-governmental sector as a fundraising and advocacy consultant for leading humanitarian organizations.

Andreea Leru

Expert (EU funding, innovation, research valorization) at the North-East Regional Development Agency

A highly-motivated and experienced professional with a proven track-record of successfully managing externally and EU-funded research and mobility projects in an international and multicultural environment, who also has an extensive expertise in grant writing and evaluating project proposals and is also knowledge-savvy in innovation and technological transfer with a keen academic and practical interest in program design, implementation and evaluation targeting regional development and convergence.

Lena Gruber

Lena Gruber is the project coordinator at Südwind in Austria and coordinated the Migrant Voices Heard research on migrants’ consultative mechanisms in Europe. She has been working as a trainer and project coordinator on the empowerment of migrants, refugees, women, and youths for several years. She is a peace and conflict researcher with experience in peace and development work in Liberia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe. Lena is a board member of WIDE Women in Development – a network on feminist perspectives in development cooperation.

Panel Discussions

Monika Pisankaneva, Panel discussion facilitator

Monika Pisankaneva is the Program Director of the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation and Project Manager of the Migrant Voices Heard project, responsible for liaison with international partners, project coordination, and reporting. Her academic background is in the fields of philosophy, social studies, and philanthropy. Her work experience is focused on community development, philanthropy, human rights, and social inclusion.


Irina Karamarković, Ph.D.

Currently Chairwoman of the Migrants’ Advisory Board of the City of Graz.
Elected by third-country nationals living in Graz in November 2021 for a term of office of 5 years.

Karamarković is self-employed as an artist – singer, singing teacher, musician, author, composer, public speaker, performer and ensemble leader. Arrived in Graz as a student in 1997 to study jazz singing, instrumental and vocal pedagogy, and speech level singing. She received her doctorate in philosophy in 2003. She speaks six languages, has basic knowledge of another three, and sings programs in 30 languages. She has acquired many years of experience in project management, intercultural and anti-racism work and has been involved in peace work and conflict prevention as well as conflict resolution. Irina Karamarković is an activist, engaged in many voluntary roles, which include cultural advisor for the city of Graz and ambassador against discrimination. She is currently the Chairwoman of the Women’s Action Forum Graz. She was born in Priština and her motto is:

“Home is where your washing machine is.“

Godswill EYA

Currently, CEO of the Migrants’ Advisory Board of the City of Graz, Eyawo has many years of experience in social, cultural and legal counselling, project management, community organizing, working with migrant associations and community-based organizations, intercultural awareness-raising and anti-racism work.
Trained as a social worker and adult educator. He holds a diploma and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria, and master’s degrees from both the Karl-Franzens University and the Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, both in Graz, Austria.
Eyawo is originally from Nigeria and has been living in Austria for the past 29 years.


Hamid Khoshseiar

Hamid Khoshseiar is a translator and culture mediator at Mission Wings Foundation. He has been in Bulgaria since 2019; and holds a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from Semnan University, Iran. He used to be a sales expert and manager. He wants to find a way to build a better future for refugees and asylum seekers and to help find solutions to their current problems considering the context of the host society. His motto is:

“Let’s build a good future in order to live it together.”

Yanitsa Bakoeva

Yanitsa Bakoeva is an expert in the Department of Education in the Municipal administration in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. Takes part in the implementation of MigrantVoicesHeard project as a communications manager.

Zhivko Zhelev

Zhivko Zhelev is a social activities and health expert in the municipality of Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. He is the project manager in the MVH project on behalf of the Muncipality. He has international experience in Erasmus + project management, and coordination.



Saïda CHOUG is the director of ASSFAM GROUPE SOS SOLIDARITES in Rhône Alpes, since January 2013.As a Migration Expert Director for ASSFAM organization since 2013, Saïda is leading a team of migration experts and together we develop and manage large-scale social services and projects in the fields of migration, asylum, migrants’ rights, integration, and education for migrants, national and European level.At a national level, she works in close collaboration with the French Ministry of the Interior, NGOs established in France, civil society organizations, and social and integration centers and shelters. At the European level, she is a member of the legal group of expert practitioners in the field of legal migration, established by the European Commission and the French migration expert representing ASSFAM in European projects co-funded by the European Civil Protection, Erasmus and Asylum, Migration and Integration. Saida studied international business (Master’s degree in Business Affairs), social policies, international law, management, and project methodology, from the University of Valenciennes.


Sofia Mizamtsi, Municipality of Neapoli-Sykies, Greece

Batchelor degree in Business Administration and Management, and Master Studies in Economic and Regional Development. Working on topics and EU projects related to sustainable development, social inclusion, accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees and other vulnerable groups. Project manager, scientific coordinator, and lead researcher in over 50 EU projects, studies, and initiatives.


Ms. Ariadni MATRAKA is an experienced Project Manager, with a track record of almost 9 years of designing, implementing, and managing European-funded projects in the fields of education, youth work, and migration. She has extensive experience in providing seminars and training courses to local groups of adults and adolescents, particularly to vulnerable groups, under EU-funded programs such as Erasmus+, European Solidarity Corps, CERV (REC), and Europe for Citizens. Ms. MATRAKA is an expert in non-formal education methods and has facilitated training on various topics, including youth policies, leadership, intercultural dialogue, and European values.


Tuqa Kamal

Tuqa Kamal, Project Coordinator at Subjective Values Foundation. Tuqa is a Social Integration counselor with experience in AMIF and other EU-funded project coordination in relation to migrant integration and organizing community action plan workshops and capacity-building programs. The knowledge and experience gained from other projects involved migrant empowerment, entrepreneurship, and socioeconomic integration.


Veronica Vitolo

Regional Policy Officer at Campania Region Unit in charge of “Planning, Project Management and Inclusion Paths in the field of Migration” included in the “Special Office for Federalism, Territorial Systems and Integrated Security”.
Currently working mainly on projects aimed at fighting migrant workers’ exploitation and marginalization, promoting migrants’ access to the labor market and to linguistic and civil training, favoring migrant communities’ political participation. 36 years old, living in Naples. Graduated in International Relations and Political Science.

Teresa Cecere

Teresa Cecere works for ActionAid Italia in the Global Inequality and Migration Unit. She is in charge of the implementation of funded projects on migration and integration. Based in Naples, her main focus includes the impact of migration policies on the rights of third-country nationals, in particiular in relation to their access to services and the job market within the Campania Region


Alis Costescu
Program Manager, Romanian Peace Institute (PATRIR)

Alis Costescu is an activist and practitioner with policy, research, and awareness-raising expertise in the fields of human rights, gender equality, and democracy. As MA and PhD student at Babeș-Bolyai University, she was involved in research and activist projects focused socio-economic inclusion of vulnerable groups, seminars and workshops for raising awareness on racial and gender discrimination. For more than 10 years she has worked in the nongovernmental sector, developing and implementing projects and programs addressing topics such as institutionalized discrimination, active citizenship and democracy consolidation, political participation, collective memory, freedom of expression, rights and inclusion of migrants and refugees.

Gonzague Isirabahenda
Cluj International Citizens Council, Founding Member

Gonzague Isirabahenda (Gonis) is an experienced early career researcher, author of various articles on the issues facing young people and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work with a track record of success in the social services field. He is currently a PhD candidate at Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca/Romania (BBU) and worked as a research assistant at the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work. He cooperates with international think tanks and NGOs, such as the Council of Europe in the field of youth, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), the Critical Realism Network, and the CODATA community. He is also an active member of the OECD Forum Network, the Network of Employability, Enterprise and Work-based Learning for the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) and the British Sociological Association (BSA).

Mihaela-Ionela Furculiță
Community Mobilizer and Social Impact Coordinator, Romanian Peace Institute (PATRIR)

Mihaela Furculita is a dedicated professional with a passion for social impact and community engagement. Currently working as a Community Mobilizer and Social Impact Coordinator at PATRIR, Romania, she is actively engaged in improving the lives of migrants and refugees through focus groups and research initiatives. She has participated in numerous initiatives with youth and internationals over the past five years, bringing her expertise in communication, leadership, and training. Mihaela’s academic accomplishments, from her Bachelor’s degree to her current Master’s studies, demonstrate her dedication to establishing a solid educational foundation to support her community development and leadership efforts.

Partner’s presentations:
Municipality of Neapoli-Sykies
Mission Wings Foundation and Stara Zagora Municipality
Subjective Values Foundation